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A solar panel farm

Put a green thorn in fossil site planning laws

“I take your point,” Alok Sharma replied, when asked if the approval of a new coal mine was “an embarrassment” ahead of the UK hosting the COP26 Climate Summit.

The questions to Mr Sharma, President of the UK-hosted COP26 in Glasgow in November, came from the Commons business select committee.

Even Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, told the committee there was a “slight tension” between Cumbria County Council approving the mine and national efforts to clean up – or green up – the economy.

Ministers could have reversed the decision by “calling in” the plans. But they declined to do so, saying that the coal was required for creating the heat to make steel. Otherwise coal would have to be imported, the applicant and council agreed. This would increase carbon emissions, given the travel to reach the UK.

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Sharma’s COP26 challenge: plan to follow Greta’s lead

There are signs of progress of sustainability – saving our planet – in many walks of life. However, only with a sense of history can we judge if the Climate Emergency is truly being addressed.

Those judging whether humanity is making progress don’t have to have lived through the attempts or to have been old enough to make value judgements for all that time, either.

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate activist, has been pretty vocal for a number of years. Having only just turned 18, on January 3, she has started the year and her adult life being outspoken and caustic. Just as outspoken and caustic as she was when she shot to fame as the girl who went on strike from school to highlight climate change.

Shouting from that modern rooftop, Twitter, she has roundly condemned political leaders. They have, she said, failed to achieve any of their ambitious biodiversity goals, set in 2010 and agreed at a conference in Aichi, Japan.

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Bees collecting pollen

Controversial pesticide use? UK is the bees knees

Well that didn’t take long, did it? No sooner was the United Kingdom out of its European Union child reins, or however the pro-Brexiteers wish to describe it, than the Government broke a promise on a bee pesticide.

According to a report by the Guardian, a pesticide that is believed to kill bees was banned by the EU two years ago – and now it has been cleared for use in the United Kingdom.

A product containing a particular pesticide has been allowed for emergency use, after lobbying by the National Farmers’ Union and British Sugar. Wouldn’t you think these were two organisations that surely should know better? Their argument is that it will kill off the threat posed by a virus. We don’t want another one of those in 2021 to turn into a pandemic, I suppose.

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Environmentally ugly, bad and good of 2020

A few years ago, at a social function with a fish and chip dinner, I remarked to a friend of my eldest offspring about the evils of using our plastic knives and forks.

Plastic – so useful and adaptable for many things – was humanity’s scourge, I started. It never breaks down fully, I ventured, becoming microplastics. Much of it ended up in our waterways and ultimately in our seas, I added. (The statistic that the plastic in our seas could outweigh the fish by 2050 if we continue to use it at the same rate is still a well floated one. Source: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation.)

I told my captivated, shocked, listener that plastics – microplastics – end up in the very bottom of our seabed, nibbled on by plankton. If not the larger fish before that. So it could well be in our food chain already. (And last week a published study found microplastics in placentas – we’ll come to that).

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Pomelo, artichoke, fennel and passion fruit

Unusual fruit salad and other Oddbox wonders

The joy of finding something new and environmentally beneficial at the end of a troublesome year brings hope, enlightenment and a sense of fresh beginnings. And it has been very timely indeed.

I have mentioned Oddbox before. My first delivery was fascinating. I knew this home delivered (in the dead of night no less) fruit and vegetable package to be rescuing food that would otherwise fall out of the supply chain. Items are rescued from the UK and abroad. 

I wouldn’t have bought beetroot or melon at this time of year. I was certainly pleasantly surprised by purple carrots!

Oddbox doesn’t allow you to choose what arrives. What they can deliver entirely depends on what is available – that would be going to waste. But the choices of boxes do say how many types of vegetable or fruit will be contained within.

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SweetPotatoes

Sweet potato experiment: results you’ve all awaited

How did the sweet potatoes go this year, I hear you ask? I’ve been flooded with enquiries. You’ll remember I planted them as this year’s experiment in the garden, to expand the range of what I knew how to grow.

Those sweet looking plants arrived with beard-looking roots back in May. I planted them variously. A few in growbags, like the pictures from Marshalls suggested would be an idea. I downloaded and printed off a set of reasonably specific instructions from the RHS website.

They seemed like a great source. They train people in how to garden. And my cousin also uses them as his “go to” for advice. He’d decided to join me in growing these, although I think he started much later and decided to nurture something tangible for next year.

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Priory site’s future propels Reigate Society online

History is in the making. The Reigate Society, which cares about historic and modern buildings in Reigate and Redhill, will hold its first online meeting. The subject? A key historic landmark in the borough.

The point of doing so is to discuss the future of the Priory building in Reigate Park – the very same building that sparked the formation of the society in 1952.

Back then, there were plans to build a bypass through the park, that would have involved the removal of the building. For the past few years, this building has been the home of the Reigate Priory School.

The foundations of the Augustine building can be traced back to 1235. Those parts are really only visible from the inside, but the building today is still an imposing site.

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onshore wind

Winds of progress on horizon for onshore power

Clarity and progress. That’s a starting point for many people. Those two things have been in short supply for months, but finally a Government announcement gives both.

No, I’m not writing about the lifting of lockdown restrictions for a period including Christmas. We haven’t got clarity on that quite yet anyway. Nor am I referring to the three announcements that Covid-19 vaccines work and will be rolled out imminently. But it’s great news.

What caught my attention is the Guardian’s report that the Government will subsidise onshore wind (and solar). This, in the form of allowing renewable energy to bid for subsidy contracts in an auction. It’s the first time since 2015 they will be allowed to bid.

When Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he wanted offshore wind to be capable of powering all homes by 2030, it gave rise to an obvious question:

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